Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

In Luke 19 we find Jesus and his disciples nearing Jerusalem. Because his disciples assumed that the kingdom of God was about to appear, Jesus told them a parable, beginning in this way: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” Jesus was pointing to his death and going to heaven, but he would return one day to establish the consummated kingdom of God.

For those who reject the biblical Christ, this is the bottom line: “I will not have him to reign over me.” The bottom line really is whether we retain our autonomy or surrender it to Jesus.

Many mask their rejection of the rule of Christ by claiming they do follow him, but everybody else who follow the Bible are the ones who misunderstand the real Jesus. The real Jesus, they say, is all about love, and that’s the Jesus they follow. This love is one that allows all things, whether it is same-sex marriage or folks changing their gender or women having the right to abort their unborn baby, etc.

The Bible, of course, calls such things “sin,” but these “Christian” rebels claim that the Bible is simply a manmade book and really doesn’t carry any authority.

Amazingly, many of those who refuse to bow to Christ are in the Christian ministry. With academic degrees and ministerial standing, they undermine the very faith that they claim to follow.

One such minister is in a mainline denomination that endorses same-sex marriage and legalized abortion. Without shame he claims: “I think the Bible is wrong about most everything. It is wrong about evolution, slavery, women, and gays. It has no authority on those topics. I think the Bible is wrong about cosmology, history, our future, Jesus, and God. The texts were all written by human beings without any supernatural or special revelation. Yet I preach in a PC(USA) pulpit.” He mocks, “Run! Flee! Escape while you can into the refreshing waters of pure doctrine!”

To those who leave the denomination because it refuses to address such heresy, he taunts: “We will need plenty more break-offs before we finally give up on the oppressive notion of the Authority of Scripture. The Bible contains no truth outside of what we can discover through public means of inquiry. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy the Bible. It is a marvelous human book. I read it and study it with all the critical means at my disposal. In so doing, I will do my part to undermine its Authority which I think is the next important step for religious freedom.”

And so we learn that his issue is the authority of Scripture. This minister enjoys the prospect of a god of his own creation, a god who basically endorses all that he himself approves, a god who is basically a mirror image of what he conceives as good. No holiness. No righteousness. No divine justice. No fear of God.

This minister and countless others discount the Bible because it doesn’t endorse such a view. It presents a holy God who requires perfection in order to dwell in God’s presence. The Bible takes issue with sin, but the Son of God came to earth to satisfy divine justice for those who will submit to Christ. But that’s the thing — this minister, who happens not to believe in the afterlife, refuses to bow.

But bow he shall, as will all of creation: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11 [ESV]).




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How do you imagine God?

The December 17-19, 2010, issue of USA WEEKEND featured an article entitled “How Americans imagine God.” As if coming from a Hallmark card, it was subtitled, “Here’s a heartfelt gift we hope inspires you in this busy season.”

Count me uninspired.

The author, Cathy Lynn Grossman, explains that Americans were asked what they thought when they imagined God. She writes, “We received hundreds of e-mails, letters and online submissions. No two are the same, and each is intensely personal and deeply passionate.”

People from all sections of the country and from all walks of life responded, and though no two were the same, “one gleaming, common thread weaves throughout: For Americans today, God, quite simply, is love. Christians, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists alike describe a loving presence who offers a pathway to goodness, peace and brotherhood. Some imagine him, or her, as limitless energy; others, a force of nature as great as the ocean and as dear as a baby’s smile. Non-believers, about 5%, didn’t miss a chance to chime in with declarations that we can all be good without God.”

How do the folks view God? “A mother cradling a child, a heart afire with passion, the willingness to sacrifice for another’s benefit.” “He challenges me to do things that are beyond my logic, mainly helping others.” “Transparent, shapeless and genderless.” “Love, beauty, goodness, truth and compassion.” “Like me because she is me and I am her. She is something you feel within your soul.” “Standing above the clouds, one arm folded across his chest, the other resting on the folded arm with his hand on his chin. He is waiting for me to talk to him and when I do, He is so happy.” “A great loving Father who lets me climb into his lap.”

A pastor in Texas had the most biblical answer, drawing from Isaiah’s vision: “Sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple with angels praising Him saying Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” A professor at the Duke Divinity School gushed, “God does not erect borders of separation and distance. God busts open every barrier that would seal us in our aloneness.” A contemporary Christian songwriter opined, “A deep well of forgiveness; an endless outpouring of love; author of the universe and yet still involved in the smallest details of my life, past, present, and future.” A rabbi in Los Angeles maintained that God is “something that I cannot begin to imagine.” An actor waxed philosophical, “A kernel of positive electromagnetic power in each of us, a remnant of the origin of the universe that can occasionally flare up within us in the form of grace or inspiration, and which is inextinguishable.”

So what do you think when you think of God? We need to be careful here. John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” When I think about God, I don’t envision anything. I am content to consider his attributes. The imagination precedes the actual fashioning of an idol, and God does not take that lightly (Exodus 20:4-5).

Left to one’s mental creativity, there is no limit to the excesses to which one may go in imagining God, and such imagination, regardless how good it makes one feel, does not represent the true God. God has not left himself to our imaginations. Rather, he has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures, and that is sufficient. When Moses sought to see God, God revealed who he is: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6–7). Meditate upon those verses for a little while. When you read the Scriptures, observe how God has revealed himself. You will not have to imagine. God has not left himself to our imaginations. He has revealed himself, and that is sufficient. Seeing God as the Bible reveals him will help us respond as Moses responded: “And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped” (Exodus 34:8).

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